Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has accused the Narendra Modi government of using his “refusal” to attend the Lokpal selection panel meeting as an “excuse” for not appointing the country’s first ombudsman. He has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterating his objection to the invitation extended to him for the selection panel meeting as a “special invitee”.
Kharge, who has been invited by the government to attend the selection panel meeting as a “special invitee”, maintained that he would attend it only after relevant changes are made in the law. He hit out at the Modi government for not amending the Lokpal Act to facilitate the participation of the opposition in the Lokpal’s selection process.
He said, “Since 2014, the government has not made any attempt to amend the relevant provisions of the Lokpal Act to include the Leader of the Single Largest Party in the Opposition to be a member of the Selection Committee.”
This comes in the wake of a Supreme Court direction to the Centre on March 7 giving it 10 days to inform it about the possible dates when the selection panel for the appointment of the country’s first Lokpal will meet.
The Lokpal Search Committee led by former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, formed by the government last year, has forwarded three panels of names for chairperson, judicial members and non-judicial members to the Lokpal selection committee. A meeting of the committee is scheduled later in the day.
In his letter to PM Modi, Kharge has referred to the meetings of the search committee and previous meetings of the Lokpal selection panel alleging that “the intention of the government was only to exclude the opposition from this crucial process.”
“A ‘Special Invitee’ would not have any rights of participation in the process of selection of the Lokpal and I cannot accept the opposition being made voiceless in a critical matter,” Kharge said. This is the seventh letter that Kharge has written to PM Modi since February 28 last year on the matter.
Parliament had passed the Lokpal Act in 2013 when the Congress-led UPA government was in power. The law provides for a Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayuktas in states to probe the cases of corruption against public servants.
The Prime Minister, the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Chief Justice of India or his nominee, Leader of the Opposition and an eminent jurist are the members of the Lokpal Selection Committee. As there is no designated Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha currently, the government has invited Mallikarjun Kharge, the leader of the Congress Legislature Party in the House to the meetings of the selection panel but as a ‘special invitee’.